Boxin Zhao

Boxin Zhao

Contact information

Phone: 519-888-4567 x38666
Location: E6 2012


Boxin Zhao
Google Scholar

Biography summary

Boxin Zhao is a professor in the department of Chemical Engineering and member of the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology, Institute for Polymer Research, Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology at the University of Waterloo.

His research focuses on surface science and bionanomaterials, including smart polymers, biopolymers, sustainable polymers, antimicrobial coatings and composites, hydrogels, bionanomaterials, soft materials and interface, biomimetic adhesion, soft robotic devices, advanced manufacturing, etc. He has 100+ peer-refereed papers in top journals, including Macromolecules, Advanced Materials, Nature Materials and Progress in Polymer Sciences.

Professor Zhao is interested in the smart polymers that can change shape and colour and even conduct electrical current and heat. Due to their long-chain structure, polymers are highly flexible and can be readily filled with components such as nanoparticles and nanowires, enabling many innovative applications (e.g. flexible electronics, smart windows and soft robotic fingers).

One particular interest is in the adhesion phenomena at the micro and nano scales. Effective adhesion between similar or dissimilar material components has become one of the most critical prerequisites for advanced manufacturing at ever-smaller scales. As a result, Professor Zhao concentrates on the optimization of polymer adhesive materials.

Professor Zhao studies biomimicry, which involves biological systems such as lotus leaves, gecko adhesive pads, mussel adhesive plaque and biofilms. He has been studying reversible adhesive properties of gecko footpads. He has conducted theoretical and experimental investigation into the adhesion and friction forces that characterize the gecko’s foot hairs and developed a Johnson-Kendall-Roberts friction model to interpret the dynamic behaviour. This biomimetic research has applications in biomedicine, as the adhesive can be used as an alternative to stitches, as well as a reconstructive material to reduce scarring when treating burn and cancer patients.

Professor Zhao develops advanced polymer composites and coatings as self-cleaning surfaces. One development is a superhydrophobic self-cleaning surface that can prevent the deposition and adhesion of liquid droplets. This includes the tiny respiratory droplets, expelled when talking and sneezing, that might contain infectious virus. Another development is antimicrobial coatings that can actively kill bacterial, fungi and virus.

Research interests

  • Surface science and bionanomaterials
  • Adhesives and coatings
  • Biomimetic micro and nano fabrication
  • Nanotechnology
  • Biomechanics
  • Biolubrication
  • Polymer Science
  • Hydrogels
  • Interfacial Phenomena
  • Colloids & Porous Media
  • Micro- and nano-tribology
  • Bionanomaterials
  • Soft Interfaces
  • Biomimetic Adhesion
  • Bio-integrated Devices
  • Nanoparticles synthesis
  • Interfacial materials engineering
  • Biomimicry
  • Biomimetic materials and devices
  • Multifunctional polymers and nanocomposites
  • Biopolymer and healthcare materials
  • Advanced coating and adhesive bonding technology
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nanotechnology, Soft Materials and Interface
  • Polymers and soft robotics


  • 2004, Doctorate, Chemical Engineering, McMaster University
  • 1999, Master's, Institute of Chemical Metallurgy, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing
  • 1996, Bachelor's, Mineral Engineering, Central South University


  • CHE 100 - Chemical Engineering Concepts 1
    • Taught in 2019
  • CHE 313 - Applications of Heat and Mass Transfer
    • Taught in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2024
  • CHE 612 - Interfacial Phenomena
    • Taught in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

* Only courses taught in the past 5 years are displayed.

Selected/recent publications

  • Yang, Fut (Kuo) and Cholewinski, Aleksander and Yu, Li and Rivers, Geoffrey and Zhao, Boxin, "A Hybrid Material That Reversibly Switches Between Two Stable Solid States", Nature Materials(18), 874 - 882
  • Zhang, Wei and Feng, Pan and Chen, Jian and Sun, Zhengming and Zhao, Boxin, Flexible Energy Storage Systems Based on Electrically Conductive Hydrogels, Progress in Polymer Science(88), 220 - 240
  • Yu, Li and Shahsavan, Hamed and Rivers, Geoffrey and Zhang, Che and Si,Pengxiang and Zhao, Boxin, Programmable 3D Shape Changes in Liquid Crystal Polymer Networks of Uniaxial Orientation, Advanced Functional Materials, 28(37)
  • Zhang, Che and Yu, Li and Ferdosian, Fatemeh and Vijayaraghavan, Sucharita and Mesnager, Julien and Jollet, Veronique and Zhao, Boxin*, "Behavior of Water/pMDI Emulsion Adhesive on Bonding Wood Substrates with Varied Surface Properties", Industrial Engineering Chemistry Research, 57(48), 16318 - 16326 (Accepted in 2018)
  • Si, Pengxiang and Chen, Li and Yu, Li and Zhao, Boxin, "Dual Colorimetric and Conductometric Responses of Silver-Decorated Polypyrrole Nanowires for Sensing Organic Solvents of Varied Polarities", ACS Appiled Material Interface, 10(35), 29227 - 29232 (Accepted in 2018)
  • Shahsavan, Hamed and Salili, Seyyed Muhammad and Jákli, Antal and Zhao, Boxin, Thermally Active Liquid Crystal Network Gripper Mimicking the Self-Peeling of Gecko Toe Pads, Advanced Materials, 29(3), 2017
  • Rivers, Geoffrey and Lee-Sullivan, Pearl and Zhao, Boxin, Vitrification during cure produces anomalies and path-dependence in electrical resistance of conductive composites, Composites Science and Technology, 149, 2017, 90 - 99
  • d’Eon, Jeffrey and Zhang, Wei and Chen, Li and Berry, Richard M and Zhao, Boxin, Coating cellulose nanocrystals on polypropylene and its film adhesion and mechanical properties, Cellulose, 24(4), 2017, 1877 - 1888

In the news

Graduate studies